Today is all about how to make cut-out sugar cookies: Simple shapes that I will attempt decorate without screwing them up too bad.
This is a long post and I apologize for that but I wanted to cover every step of the process.
Sugar cookies are easy to make; deciding which cookie cutters to use is probably the most difficult part of the process.
I decided to use one of my all-time favorite sugar cookie recipes for this: Sweetopia’s sugar cookie recipe.
I use the recipe as written, with just a few small adaptations which are a result of my own mishaps when I started baking sugar cookies.
The first few times I used the recipe, my cookies spread like nobody’s business and looked nothing at all like the cookie cutter that was used to cut the shapes. I decided to stop adding the baking powder – a suggestion Marian makes on the recipe.
Add to that, the consistency of my dough just didn’t seem right, and the texture of the cookies was “off” for lack of a better word.
I knew I couldn’t fault the recipe. Marian has hundreds of followers who swear by the recipe and I knew it was a great recipe. Nope, this was definitely my doing.
The recipe calls for 5 cups of all-purpose flour. A cup, using standard measurements, is 4.5 ounces, or 125 grams. That equates to a total of 22.5 ounces, or 625 grams.
I weigh my flour as I mentioned in my post on How to Properly Measure Flour. Using the measurements above, my cookies were not coming out the way I knew they should be and I finally decided that was my problem.
I read and reread every post and comment Marian had written until I found out just what I was doing wrong. Marian advised that her cups, when weighed, were each 5.6 ounces (approx 159 grams), for a total of 28 ounces. That’s 794 grams; a huge difference from what I had been using. She saved me!
With that information in hand, and the baking powder stored in the cupboard, I made the cookies again and BINGO! I had over-the-top perfect sugar cookies.
I”ve also started freezing the dough to help with the spreading issue; something I learned from Bridget over at Bake at 350, another site I am obsessed with.
After rolling the dough and chilling it for an hour, I cut out the cookies and put the sheet pan in the freezer for 10 minutes. My cookies don’t spread nearly as much when they’re baked directly from the freezer. Great tip!
I don’t have unlimited freezer space, but in my garage I have an old standard fridge with the freezer on top so I can usually fit one sheet pan in there. And as Bridget advises, I rotate the sheet pans. One is in the oven while another waits patiently in the freezer, another in the fridge waiting to go into the freezer, and so forth.
Today I made 2-1/2″ squares with scalloped edges and 3″ circles. Yes, I know, the picture below is horrible as are some of the others in this post. The edges are actually gold brown.
My photography skills still leave a lot to be desired.
I also made some doves, approx 4″ each.
I froze all the cookies for now, and will attempt to learn the decorating process with them in the next few weeks.
The recipe made 59 cookies which was great.
Below is my adaptation of Marian’s recipe and the process that works best for me which includes the tips I’ve garnered from Bridget. I wish the two of them gave private lessons. I’d hire them in a heartbeat.
I’ve included metric conversions for all the ingredients.
Sugar Cookie Recipe
(adapted from Sweetopia.net)
6-1/4 cups all-purpose flour – weighed ( a total of 28 ounces, or 794 grams)
1 teaspoon salt (5 milliliters)
2-1/2 cups (567 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups (500 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean, or 3 teaspoons (15 milliliters) pure vanilla extract
Sift together the flour and salt in a medium bowl, and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on low to medium speed, for 1 minute.
Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bowl and then mix again for 5 seconds.
Add 1 egg at a time and mix just until incorporated.
Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bowl and mix again for a few seconds.
Add the vanilla beans or vanilla extract. Mix for a few seconds, just until incorporated.
Add all the flour/salt mixture at once.
Place a damp tea towel over the bowl (so the flour doesn’t fly out and coat both you and your kitchen!).
Mix on the lowest speed for 30 seconds, until the flour is incorporated.
Remove the tea towel and continue to mix until the dough begins to clump around the paddle attachment.
Don’t over mix or the dough will be tough (not a good thing for cookies).
Turn out the dough on to a large piece of parchment paper and form into a rough disk.
Use a bench scraper to divide the dough into two equal pieces. I do this because I find it easier to work with half of the dough at a time.
Flatten one piece of the dough using the palm of your hand
Place another large piece of parchment over it.
If using Perfection Strips to roll the dough uniformly, line them up on either side of the parchment paper.
Roll the dough out to 1/4″ (.6 cm) thickness. If the top piece of parchment wrinkles just lift it up and smooth it out. Continue to roll.
Lift the bottom piece of parchment and slide it, along with the dough, on to a sheet pan. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
Repeat with the remaining half of dough.
Put some flour in a bowl to dip the cookie cutters in. This makes it easier to cut and lift the shapes as the cutter won’t stick to the dough.
Working quickly (the dough will soften quickly), and with one piece of dough at a time, cut out shapes as close together as possible. The cut-out cookie should pull up easily from the dough.
Place the cookies approximately 1″ apart on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Use a pastry brush to wipe off excess flour.
Place the sheet pan in the freezer for 10 minutes and continue cutting out the remaining dough. Place additional sheet pans in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Gently knead scraps together, re-roll, and refrigerate dough for at least 20 minutes, until firm. Cut shapes out of the re-rolled scraps and either freeze for 10 minutes, or refrigerate for at least another 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C, Gas Mark 4).
Remove sheet pan from freezer and put another one in the freezer while the first batch bakes.
Bake cookies on the middle rack for 8-12 minutes or until the edges are a light golden brown. Don’t over-bake.
The baking time will depend on the size of the cookies and whether or not the cookies have thin appendages. In my oven cookies generally take a full 12 minutes. However, when I baked the dove cookies the first round of them over-baked at 11 minutes as you can see below.
I baked the next batch of them for just 9 minutes.
A note here: It’s important to bake cookies of similar shapes and sizes together so that they bake uniformly.
Place sheet pan on to a cooling rack for 5 minutes. Gently remove cookies using a thin spatula and place directly on the cooling rack. Allow them to cool to room temperature.
You’re can now decorate or freeze the cookies until you’re ready to decorate them.
I chose to freeze these which I’ll explain how to do in the next post.